As you well know, the Democrats hold all the power, or at least most of it in the nation’s capital. Not only do they have a Democratic president and vice president in the White House, but they hold the majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Naturally, this makes it rather easy for them to get passed into law just about everything they could dream of – at least in theory.
The problem, of course, is that those majorities are pretty much the slimmest you could ever imagine.
In the House, only 5 five seats are needed for Republicans to flip in the upcoming 2022 midterms elections, which is definitely likely to happen, if not a near guarantee at this point. And in the Senate, the margin is even smaller. In fact, in the Upper House, the number of Democratic senators and Republican ones is split right down the middle, so 50 of each.
The only tie-breaking vote, should each senator vote along party lines, is vice president Kamala Harris, again, giving the Democratic Party the very slimmest of majorities.
Of course, as we all know, senators don’t always vote according to their party.
Recently, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema from Arizona have refused to vote with their party members to pass the much-debated Build Back Better spending bill.
And this means every vote does more than count.
This is why Democratic senators are definitely in a tough spot now, thanks to a rather sudden medical emergency being experienced by Democratic Senator Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico.
According to the Digital Journal and his chief of staff Carlos Sanchez, Lujan began feeling fatigued and dizzy early Thursday morning. Enough so that he checked himself into a hospital in Santa Fe. Later, he was transferred to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque “for further evaluation.”
They discovered that Lujan had suffered from “a stroke in the cerebellum, affecting his balance.” His office explained that he had been kept at the hospital since then and had even undergone a “decompressive” surgery to help ease swelling on his brain.
Naturally, the experience was rather a harrowing one for Lujan and one we hope that he soon recovers from. He is just 49 years old.
However, the event has caused even more problems for his fellow party members in the Senate, especially since there is no real way to tell just how long Lujan will be out of work.
In 2006, Senator Tim Johnson had a brain bleed that kept him out of Washington for nine months. And in 2012, Mark Kirk experienced a stroke and was kept out of the Senate for a full year. It could be just as long, if not longer, of a recovery for Lujan.
Meanwhile, bills need to be voted on and debated, and the Senate is left with one less Democrat than before. Suffice it to say that their majority is gone, at least for now.
You might know that in the House of Representatives when a member is physically absent from the House chambers, they can still vote. However, the same is not true for the rules in the Senate. Each member has to be there in person, or they simply forfeit that vote.
This means that when negotiations for Biden’s Build Back Better plan reopen, as they are expected to soon, the political left will have even less of a leg to stand on unless they somehow convince Republicans to vote with them.
It also poses a problem for the Democrats’ plan to get new and rather liberal Supreme Court justice nominated and confirmed before the November elections when it is highly expected that the GOP will retake both congressional houses.
Now, unlike with the Build Back Better plan, getting justice confirmed isn’t impossible, not by a long shot. However, it might complicate things a bit. Naturally, as the outgoing justice, Stephen Breyer is a rather staunch liberal, the idea is to replace him with someone just as left-leaning, if not more so.
However, with a now Republican majority in the Senate, until Lujan is ruled fit to go back to work, the likelihood of achieving that is pretty much a no-go. It does mean that more centrist judges like US Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson or South Carolina Federal District Judge J. Michelle Childs could be likely candidates, as both have garnered support from at least one Republican senator in the past.
But only time and Lujan’s health will determine when and if the Democrats can take back the majority.